Task force says Frederick police not forceful or racially biased

December 08, 1998|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

A citizens task force that examined allegations of police brutality in Frederick has found no pattern of excessive force or racial bias in arrests.

But in its report to the city's police chief yesterday, the panel concluded that citizens have no good recourse in making complaints and called for an overhaul.

The eight-month review was prompted by accusations by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and community groups that Frederick police officers had beaten black suspects.

In one instance, the family of a 17-year-old girl alleged that she was beaten by an officer during a traffic stop Jan. 19. The second case involved a 43-year-old man who complained that he was punched and sprayed with pepper spray by two officers during a drug arrest Jan. 24.

The local chapter of the NAACP called for the police chief's ouster. Chief Regis R. Raffens- berger denied that his officers had responded too forcefully and appointed the task force.

Two NAACP leaders, an alderman, a minister and a businessman reviewed complaints, interviewed officers and met with residents. Charlene Edmonds, a panel member and president-elect of the Frederick County chapter of the NAACP, said based on the findings, she would not be seeking the police chief's removal.

In its 22-page report, the task force made more than two dozen recommendations, including establishing an internal investigations unit that reports directly to the chief, creating a civilian review board and installing video cameras in patrol cars.

Key among the panel's criticisms was the way the department handles complaints. Citizens are sometimes discouraged by having to go to the police department and meet with a supervisor. The panel found the department was far more likely to sustain complaints from officers than from citizens.

After studying dozens of reports, the panel found no evidence that the officers "routinely used 'excessive' force as a pattern of behavior" or of a racial pattern in arrests.

Denise West, a panelist and the NAACP vice president, said: "That doesn't mean it doesn't exist. We just couldn't say it was there with the information we had."

Pub Date: 12/08/98

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